Service Design Evening in Athens

Open Change has just returned from a few days in Athens, facilitating two events, and meeting a number of people who are keen to develop service design approaches to meet the challenges facing Greece currently.

We were there at the kind invitation of Vasia Christoulaki who is the energetic force behind Design4Future – an Athens based service design agency that initiated the city’s Service Design Drinks and this May’s GovJam. As part of their regular programme of service design events, our evening talk and workshop was held at Earth K44 who, along with DTMH Digital Studio, were the event sponsors.

There was an interesting mix of people who made their way to the Earth K44 coworking space in the heart of Athens’ Keramikos district – policy makers, professionals from the health sector, the Ministry of Development, Ministry of Digital Transformation, the National Library of Greece, front-line public servants, University professors, social entrepreneurs and designers. It was a real pleasure to meet with them, share our experiences and introduce them to some of our methods.


We provided an introduction to Open Change, and described our work, focusing in particular on our work with Dundee City Council and the NHS. As part of this we discussed the importance of building communities of innovation and change within a locality. Following this – and a short networking opportunity – we ran a Rip+Mix workshop with participants, emphasising its value as a creative confidence building tool. The evening finished with some fascinating, productive discussions and an invitation to run a session with the Director and senior team of the National Library of Greece which we describe separately.

We asked Vasia to summarise what she considered the value of the evening was:

“Showing people successful case studies of applying service design in the public sector, even from a different country and context, is very inspiring for them. Τhey really enjoyed the experience.  Design4Future also learned so much in terms of ideas and methods we can embed in the way we do things. So thank you!”

Vasia also reflected on the issues of how to build a service design community in the city, and the challenges facing Greece today:

“This was only our second event, and some of those who attended the first one came along, but we also had many new participants which is great. As we keep doing this and showing the impact of our events, we’ll be able to build a community of like minded people – those who want to bring change in society and their organizations because they are frustrated of the way things are done right now in Greece.”

The great opportunity for those of us working in this field is to share and adapt internationally. What works in Dundee cannot simply be transferred to another city – but we can learn and discuss how methods can be adapted:

“We will have to find our own way to use this approach, taking into consideration the special circumstances of Greece. We must find a Greek way of applying and doing service design in the public and social sector. I am encouraged that Stephania from the National Library was so keen to apply this approach in her organization. We must learn, share, collect case studies and through such collaboration we will find solutions.”

Our time in Athens was a vital and convivial reminder of the value of working as colleagues across Europe in the service design community – sharing inspiration and experiences and supporting each other in using service design to improve the quality of life for all those who call Europe their home. Our huge thanks goes to Vasia for making this event happen, and we look forward to building on these links in the years to come.